Golf Gypsy—The Early Years, living and learning at Independence Country Club

Like and Follow Golf Oklahoma

The facts are few of my early childhood living on the golf course at the Independence, Ks. Country club, but the stories are full.

My parents were in their mid-thirties when I was born in Arcadia, California in 1947, and a long ways from their Kansas roots in Wichita. In those short years in the late forties both of my grandfather’s died in Wichita, Kansas leaving behind two elderly grandmothers. Before long my parents made the decision to move back to Kansas and be closer to home. My mother always told me that when the earthquake that knocked her baby daughter off the bed in California she decided that Kansas and its tornadoes were where her family needed to be, not California.

By 1950 we moved to the small square house, shown above to the right of the water tower and hidden by the trees. Behind and to the right of the house was the working barn for all equipment.  The bowling alley was the long building on the West side, and the golf shop was the building south of the bowling alley.

The clubhouse on the North was magnificent from a child’s point of view. The dance floor hosted many a Saturday night dance party. Mother could wear her mink stole to the dances.

The clubhouse on the North was magnificent from a child’s point of view. The dance floor hosted many a Saturday night dance party. Mother could wear her mink stole to the dances. At Christmas times they decorated trees inside that glittered with icicles.

The Easter bunny not only came to the country club for all of the boys and girls, but he even came into our house. He was as tall as the door and carried a basket of eggs. I think they were for my new baby sister, Jonya Lea, who had been born December 11, 1951.

Mother said when came home from the hospital my first words were, “Put her down on the floor so I can play with her.” That didn’t happen on that day, but later we played outside. My favorite time with her was playing in the sandbox by the golf shop. We had two babysitters, sisters, who often watched us when mom helped dad at the club. One time Paula brought a gift she won in a Cracker Jack box. She quietly secretly took me into a closet. When it was just the right time, she opened her hands and inside was a glow in the dark skull. I screamed with excitement and ate Cracker Jacks for the next decade looking for glow in the dark toys.

Alex, a black man who was shorter and rounder than my father must have been dad’s right hand man. When I wanted to learn how to bowl, at age 3-4, Alex set up the bowling alley so that my small body could roll a ball a few yards down the lane. I was always happy in the bowling alley, the odor of the bowling alley, cigarette smoke and chalk powder, has stayed with me all of my life.

I attended Catholic school at age five, but I didn’t adjust well. My only memory was sitting in the second floor classroom, starring at the huge tree out the window. Sometimes I pretended to be in the tree, not in the classroom and the nun would take a ruler and hit my desk to make sure I paid attention.

Mother taught me that rolling thunder in the storms was really “the potato man in heaven pushing and dropping cart loads of potatoes to the ground.” As proof one day, we drove by a downtown grocery store and outside in a bin were fresh potatoes, arriving after a terrible storm the night before. Yes, the potato man had delivered them.  The grocery store was owned by Vivian Vance’s father. She was better known as Ethel Mertz on the I Love Lucy Show.  Mother thought that was very special.

Although the golf course was only nine holes, it did have an enormous practice area. The large green to the east of the clubhouse was part of my playground. Dad allowed me to putt but never to run on the green. With a golf club in my hand, I tramped around the rolling golf course alone or with the caddies.

1952 The Independence Daily Reporter

(Winners of the kids’ golf tournament at Independence Country club under the supervision of Miller Harmon on the left, and Johnie Stapp on the right are: four year old Letty Stapp in the Pee-Wee division… The youngsters were given theater passes to attend the Booth Theater, as prizes and also golf balls. The older set received golf merchandise at the club.)

I learned to ride a two-wheeled bicycle behind our house. Dad pushed me off and away I went down the hill. Like my daughter in the 1970’s I crashed, busted my knees and jumped back on the blue bicycle.

In the spring of 1954 my father took a position as golf professional in Miami, Oklahoma. We moved leaving behind precious memories of my times playing in sand piles behind our home; learning not to eat the beans from the Catalpa trees; discovering that snakes really do eat golf balls; loving our country club stray dogs and cats; and learning not to ever sit on a pop bottle, even if the big boys can sit on one, because the red juice at the bottom of the empty bottle might just have a bumble bee down there and bumble bees sting right through clothing and hurt a little girl’s pride.


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